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American Red Cross helping families after spike in home fires

The American Red Cross of Greater Chicago is helping more than 135 people affected by 42 home fires that occurred since Jan. 1 in the 13-county region in Illinois and Northern Indiana. 

“It’s been a busy start to the year. In the past nine days, our volunteers have been working non-stop in all types of weather conditions to bring disaster relief to people affected by home fires,” said Susy Turnbull, Deputy Regional Disaster Program Officer, American Red Cross of Greater Chicago. “When the weather is colder, like the extreme temperatures we’ve been experiencing, people turn to alternative sources to heat homes which tend to spark more fires. The Red Cross is here to help with emergency shelter, food and any health services and emotional support people may need during a difficult and emotional time as they recover from a fire.” 

Disaster action team volunteers responded yesterday to a fire that displaced dozens of residents in multi-unit apartment fire on the 5800 block of N. Sheridan Street in the Edgewater neighborhood on the city’s North Side. The Red Cross opened an overnight shelter for more than 20 displaced residents at the Broadway Armory, located at 5917 N. Broadway, to provide for the immediate needs of the families including a safe place to stay, food, and health and mental health services. Red Cross caseworkers are also meeting with families to assess their long-term recovery needs. 

Early this morning on the city’s South Side, volunteers responded to a fire in the Back of the Yards neighborhood that displaced 13 adults and three children on S. Hoyne. Volunteers are providing shelter, food, seasonal garments and other relief items for the affected families. 

The Red Cross is also working with local emergency management officials in Hammond, Indiana and South Elgin in Kane County where multiple fatalities occurred in the past 24 hours. 

The Red Cross responds to 3 to 4 home fires every day in the greater Chicago region. Those responses spike in the winter months as people use more space heaters or other sources to warm homes. During extremely cold weather, the risk for a fire in someone’s home can increase. To avoid fire danger: 

• Never use a stove or oven to heat your home. 

• If you are using a space heater, place it on a level, hard surface and keep anything flammable at least three feet away – things such as paper, clothing, bedding, curtains or rugs. Turn off space heaters and make sure fireplace embers are out before leaving the room or going to bed. 

• If you are using a fireplace, use a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs. 

• Use generators correctly – never operate a generator inside the home, including in the basement or garage. 

• Don’t hook a generator up to the home’s wiring. The safest thing to do is to connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator. 

For more information on home fire safety and prevention: 


About the American Red Cross 

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or visit us on Twitter at @ChicagoRedCross.